Riga holidays

Riga tourist trail

TravelSavvy guide to city breaks in Riga

Did you know?

Latvia, at 64,600 sq km, is a little smaller than Ireland

The cobbled streets of Riga's Old Town have potholes and loose cobbles

The Ethnographic Museum has shops selling traditional crafts

Tourist sights of Riga

Most of Riga's tourist trail sites are concentrated in the Old Town on the east bank of the Daugava River.

Further east is a wide green belt of parkland, lined with 19th century mansion houses, and beyond them are the gems of Art Nouveau architecture for which Riga is rightly famous.

Further afield it is mostly urban sprawl, but there are gems to discover such as the Ethnographic Museum and some sobering Holocaust memorial sites (see Nearby trips).

Art Nouveau districts

Riga has some of the best examples of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe. About a third of those buildings erected between 1896 and 1913 were in this style and the most striking examples are around Albert St.

German, Austrian and Finnish architects influenced the Riga style, but it also has many elements of Latvian culture. Most notable are five apartment blocks in Albert St and nearby is the Janis Rozentals Memorial Museum with murals going up the circular staircase. Steep roofs and ornamental motifs can be seen at Brivibas St and Terbatas St.

Riga Powder Tower

This 14th century bastion tower is the sole survivor of 18 towers that formed part of the city fortifications. The tower was used to store gunpowder and has several cannon balls still embedded in the walls.

It now houses the Latvian War Museum, with permanent exhibitions of both world wars and battles with the Soviets. The nearby Swedish Gate is the only old city gate now standing after the walls were pulled down in the 1800s to improve traffic flow.

Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

This fascinating museum is dedicated to the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Latvia with many exhibits depicting the atrocities committed against the Latvian people.

You can walk into a reconstructed Gulag barracks and see the terrible living conditions in a Siberian labour camp where many Latvians were shipped after the Soviet takeover. Exhibits are labelled in English and there is also an audio guide.

The Three Brothers

Three magnificent examples of medieval domestic architecture in Riga are the Three Brothers. The oldest is the White Brother and, dating from the 15th century, it has the typical characteristics of Latvian medieval architecture.

The middle Yellow Brother was built in 1646 and the Green Brother is just a youngster, constructed in the 18th century. The Latvian Museum of Architecture is in the White Brother and has thousands of original drawings and plans.

Riga Castle

Riga Castle dates back to 1330 but it has gone through a great many rebuilds since then, so much so that today it looks more like a glorified office block with its cream walls and red tiled roof.

It was originally built as the headquarters of the Livonian Order but torn down and rebuilt in 1487, extended in the 18th century and substantially rebuilt in 1938. It is now the residence of the Latvian president and houses three museums.

 

Riga Fotoprojekts - See Riga Art Noveau photos and information

Riga Walking Tours - Escape the old town and discover the real city on one of our unique and fun tours.

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TravelSavvy city breaks in Riga